The Fox Theater Removes its Historic Sign Structure
Last week I heard on the 10:00pm news that the steel sign frame atop the Fox Theater was being removed. The spokesperson for the Fox said that the frame was being removed due to the deteriorating condition of the structure. Several photos of the removal can be seen on the Fox Theater's blog.
The sign frame towered above the theater with the top of the structure rising higher than the roof of the eight story Metropolitan Building, which recently re-opened across the street.
While the sign itself has been gone for decades, the steel structure on the roof was very much a part of the building. Its removal brings up some questions about what should be considered significant to a buildings history. Just because a building element is not made of brick or terra cotta, does that mean it is not worthy of significance? The sign frame was an integral part of the Fox Theater's facade since its opening in January, 1929. The frame supported a massive sign composed of individual letters that were about 8-10 feet tall with a decorative filigree border, all of which was lit with neon. The Fox has been individually listed on the National Register since 1976 and is also a part of the Midtown National Register Historic District.
Another early view of the rooftop sign from the Fox Theater website. The Fox's location at the end of the Washington Avenue view corridor and the high elevation of Grand Boulevard explains the location of the rooftop sign, which was not found on most other theaters in the district. The sign would have been visible down Washington almost to Jefferson where the street curves slightly.
The four-story building that is the new home of KDHX also has a large sign frame on it's roof. The sign faces the angled section of Washington Avenue that was constructed to join with the portion of the street west of Grand. It is also visible to anyone driving south on Grand and of course the throngs of theater goers at the Fox.
In its heyday, the theater district along Grand, which was known as the "Great White Way" of the Midwest had many lighted rooftop signs. Even a simple one-story building further north on Grand was lined with rooftop billboards. Eventually, as part of an effort to "de-clutter", the City of St. Louis outlawed rooftop signs and now any new ones may only be constructed after obtaining a variance. Photos above and below from the Pyramid Companies archive.
While Grand Center lost the Fox Theater rooftop sign frame, in the same week, a new 40 foot tall sign lighted sign was hoisted onto the corner of the recently opened Metropolitan Artist Lofts. I would be curious to know the cost estimates for repairing instead of removing the sign structure at the Fox.
Vanishing STL was created to illustrate the continuing loss of irreplaceable architecture from landmark buildings to ordinary homes due to demolition, abandonment and neglect. Often I write about structures threatened with demolition to bring awareness of the situation and promote preservation as an alternative. All photos are by Paul Hohmann unless noted otherwise.